BY SAREEN KASPARIAN
You never truly understand something until you experience it yourself. This past weekend provided me with one such opportunity as I transitioned from participant to organizer for Homenetmen’s Sevan Games. It was an impactful experience that left a lasting impression on me as I gained a deeper appreciation for the work of volunteers and community organizers.
Organized by the Homenetmen Western Region and its Sevan Chapter, every year, the games take place in San Diego, California over the President’s Day long weekend. The tournament lasts for three days and features intense basketball, soccer, and volleyball games. This year, 10 chapters participated with 144 teams. More than 250 games were scheduled at three locations, with a total of 7 courts and one indoor soccer field. Games started at 8 a.m. and continued until close to midnight.
For years, I participated as a basketball player. I enjoyed playing, cheering for my chapter teams and socializing with athletes from other chapters. However, this year, I wasn’t a player. I was a scorekeeper. In theory, my job was simple. Show up on time. Track fouls, timeouts and player stats. Manage the game clock and scoreboard. Yet, challenges and complexities from coaches, players, and fans made my simple job much more challenging.
As I observed the reactions to referee calls, I took notice of the volunteers organizing this tournament. Known as RAC, Regional Athletic Committee, these volunteers not only have to manage logistics, schedules and participation, but they have to deal with a deluge of interruptions and issues. From spilled drinks to trash on the floor to aggressive fans and upset players, this volunteer body went above and beyond their call of duty to ensure the success of this tournament. I watched these volunteers change roles and responsibilities within minutes– from coaching a competitive 1A basketball game to resolving team issues to relieving scorekeepers to even helping a lost child reunite with her parents. The tireless efforts of the RAC members represented the fusion of volunteerism, leadership and benevolence, all intertwined.
In an effort to thank and help all the volunteers behind these games, including future tournaments, I’ve compiled a few tips for fans and supporters.
• Be supportive: Cheer for your team in a positive and enthusiastic manner. Encourage players and acknowledge their effort and hard work.
• Sideline Coaching: Players are guided by the coaching team, not spectators. “ We understand that parents and fans get excited during a game, but do your best to focus on supporting players,” said Bobby Vartanian, Ararat Chapter coach. “Sideline coaches are counterproductive and hurt the team more often than not.”
• Avoid excessive criticism: Avoid rebuking players, coaches, referees and scorekeepers. Remember that they are doing their best, and that negative comments or behavior can impact their concentration and performance.
• Respect the outcome: Win or lose, congratulate the opposing team on a well-played game. “Individual and collective excellence,” said Ruben Karakulyan, Shant Chapter player. “Regardless of our jersey color or chapter name, we unite under Homenetmen’s motto– Elevate yourself and others with you.”
• Be respectful: Show respect towards players, coaches, officials, and other fans, regardless of their team affiliation.
• Be mindful of others: Please clean up your area upon departure. Even though your game is over, the use of the bleachers is not.
Appreciate the Volunteers: A lot of work goes into planning, scheduling and hosting successful tournaments. Take some time to acknowledge and thank the volunteers working tirelessly behind the scenes.
I didn’t mind the constructive criticism and mindful manner reminders when I was a kid but listening to my mom recite a long list of skills I lacked launched the battle of all battles–experienced mother versus the know-it-all daughter.
Obviously, as a high school junior, I’m still learning and lack many life skills but as a semi-independent almost-adult, I know enough to bring my perspective to the conversation. Actually, when it comes to technology, nutrition and first-aid, I can teach my mom a few important life skills. The more “teachable moments” we exchanged – – from household budgeting to safeguarding our Wi-Fi network to celebrating Armenian traditions, the more we realized the value and importance of this knowledge exchange– not just for our family but for our community.
And so, it begins– the teachable moments or as my mom refers to it– the transfer of knowledge! With every issue, we hope to share our insight with you, as we intertwine experience and reasoning with modern day problems and solutions.
Sareen Kasparian is currently a junior at Crescenta Valley High School and a member of the Pasadena Nigol Touman chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation.